Tararua council probe results released

By Emily Norman editorial@age.co.nz, Christine McKay -
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The results of an external review of Tararua District Council, sparked by councillor Warren Davidson's resignation, right, is out. PHOTO/FILE
The results of an external review of Tararua District Council, sparked by councillor Warren Davidson's resignation, right, is out. PHOTO/FILE

A lack of proof into alleged abuse and bullying at Tararua District Council has meant an external review has declared council's process fit for purpose.

The Local Government New Zealand review, released last month, was sparked by the shock resignation of Eketahuna councillor Warren Davidson last year. Mr Davidson said he had been subjected to bullying and unacceptable behaviour by Mayor Roly Ellis and chief executive Blair King.

But, in the absence of video and voice recordings of events described by Mr Davidson, the review focused on the degree to which the governance policies and processes used by the council were sufficient for dealing with tensions that might arise as a result of robust debate over significant local matters.

In preparing its report, LGNZ met with councillors, senior staff and Mr Davidson, while also reviewing copies of the council's primary governance documents, including the Code of Conduct and the Governance Statement.

The review found that the governance processes in place at TDC are fit for purpose and consistent with the practice of well-performing, rural councils.

"I note LGNZ was given guidance by TDC on what to review which excluded events leading to my resignation," Mr Davidson said.

"I mentioned in my interview with LGNZ that documentation is available on some of the matters I raised, so disagree with the report comment."

The LGNZ report made recommendations for lifting the bar in some areas, such as introducing an operating style review for elected members, providing councillors with a counselling service, and re-establishing its Audit and Risk Committee in a manner consistent with best practice.

Deputy Mayor Bill Keltie said he was pleased with the review.

"We've come out of this quite well after the allegations, which were thrown at us at first."

Council chief executive Blair King said that, while [LGNZ] considers the council has robust processes, implementing the recommendations, would take it to excellence.

Councillor David Roberts said he was happy with the report outcome. "Although there was no investigation into the allegations [from Mr Davidson] as such, the report does say what we have in place is robust. "I don't believe those allegations had any justification."

The report said LGNZ was impressed with the detail and depth of the material presented to councillors at an induction workshop after each election.

However, it did not see much time devoted to the question of how councillors will work together, what they sought to achieve by standing for council and agreed success factors, ie, the process for building a team. LGNZ was impressed councillors have support to approach members of the senior leadership team to obtain updates on issues, and it would recommend the approach to other councils.

Mr Davidson earlier told the Dannevirke News he followed all channels in an effort to resolve his issues, but without success, and was disappointed more than 10 years with the council had ended with his dramatic resignation.

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